Bugger reality say the Lords

Britain needs to lead the way on artificial intelligence regulation, in order to prevent companies such as Cambridge Analytica setting precedents for dangerous and unethical use of the technology, the head of the House of Lords select committee on AI has warned.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, Lord Clement-Jones said, reinforced the committee’s findings, released on Monday in the report “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?”

“These principles do come to life a little bit when you think about the Cambridge Analytica situation,” he told the Guardian. “Whether or not the data analytics they carried out was actually using AI … It gives an example of where it’s important that we do have strong intelligibility of what the hell is going on with our data.”

To translate. “I’ll use some random passing event to bolster my call for me to have more power.”

Yes, and?

Military families have been given £246m of taxpayers’ money over the past three years to subsidise their children’s private education, it has emerged.

Elite schools such as Eton, Harrow and Gordonstoun alone received nearly £2 million last year, under a Ministry of Defence scheme which helps servicemen and women pay school fees.

It’s a standard part of military pay, and has been for generations.

The MoD wants to be able to pick up units and place them in various places around the world at will. Thus is subsidises the British education of British children in the British school system. The alternative is to have schools up to A level standard on every base around the world that families might get posted to. Quite possibly the more expensive option.

There’s a useful way at kicking back at those who would dismantle this system. Just point out that the Diplomatic corps gets a better (more of the fees are paid) deal than the military and just watch the FCO quash any attempt to end the system.

Caveat Emptor

A graduate is suing her university, claiming boasts in its prospectus about high quality teaching and excellent career prospects were fraudulently misleading after she ended up with a “mickey mouse” degree.

Pok Wong, 29, is seeking more than £60,000 in damages from Anglia Ruskin University for what she says was a breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation.

But it is a mickey mouse degree……

A useful form of rationing

So it’s time to challenge the university shibboleth of the more the merrier. Using better data, we should decide on the right number and reintroduce a cap on student numbers in conjunction with social quotas for every university. These must ensure that places are reserved for young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Say, 10% of the age cohort and that’s your lot?

Erm, as we did 40 years ago?

The joy being that we get to sack 80% of the current professoriate.

Why those empty homes?

On a short street in London’s travel zone one, where residential skyscrapers rise as symbols of the city’s affordable housing crisis, four family homes stand empty. Three are owned by Southwark council, which has 11,000 families on its waiting list for social housing. They have been “voids”, as the council describes them, for more than six months, the government’s definition of long-term empty. No 20 has been empty for more than two and a half years. The fourth house, which can be traced to an Italian commodities trader, has been empty for almost a decade.

They’re going to sell it/them apparently.

But there we have it, empty homes etc. And – agreed, very limited sample – 75% of the problem is councils taking too damn long. Comrade Corby’s plan to nick that one off the Italian isn’t going to be the solution, is it?

The NFU’s double prong

The government must not allow farming standards to slip or be undermined by bad trade deals after Brexit, the National Farmers’ Union has said in a reference to fears that food standards will be sacrificed to seal deals with the US.

Those who advocate a “cheap food policy” should bear in mind the price that is paid in terms of standards, traceability of produce and shifting the environmental impact to other countries, the NFU’s president will say at the union’s annual conference where delegates and politicians including the environment secretary, Michael Gove, will meet on Tuesday.

Anything to maintain he subsidies. Including insisting upon certain standards that can only be met through subsidy…..

Better by far to open the floodgates. And those who want those higher standards can pay for them, those who don’t also have the choice.

There’s a solution to this

Westminster city council’s deputy leader has emerged as a contender for the title of the most schmoozed politician in Britain, receiving entertainment, meals and gifts more than 500 times in the last three years.

From tickets to the hottest West End shows to exclusive dinners in London’s finest restaurants and trips to the south of France, the official declarations reveal an extraordinary lifestyle that included one day in Mallorca, when Robert Davis managed two lunches, the first at the home of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the second at the home of the Earl of Chichester.

Davis, the Conservative deputy leader of the central London borough and until last year the chairman of its powerful planning committee, was entertained by and received gifts from property industry figures at least 150 times since the start of 2015 – a rate of almost once a week.

If such a politician didn’t have so much economic power then rather fewer people would attempt to suck up to him. So, reduce the power of the politicians.

We should await Chris Snowdon’s take on this

Keep an eye on here.

The average Briton consumes 50 per cent more calories than they think they do, according to the first estimates from the Office for National Statistics.

The new data show that men are the worst at kidding themselves – typically consuming 1,000 more calories than they estimate every day – while women eat about 800 calories more than they account for.

My first take is:

The new PHE advice, in the One You nutrition campaign, will say adults should limit lunches and dinners to 600 calories each, with 400 calories for breakfast.

Those behind the campaign say overall recommended daily consumption levels are unchanged- at 2000 calories for women and 2500 for men – but that the guidance is a “rule of thumb” to help people cut back.

This is still markedly (like, 20%) lower than wartime minimum ration.

It still ain’t that we’re all eating more.

Witness intimidation now?

Having briefed the staff in the office in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, that an investigation was under way, the main part of the investigation commenced. During the investigation 40 witnesses were interviewed. While the investigation was still in progress, the line manager of one of the suspects leaked an investigation report to an unconnected member of staff.

This resulted in three of the suspects physically threatening and intimidating one of the witnesses who had been referred to in the report. This incident led to further charges of bullying and intimidation against these three members of staff.

Someone should ask Emma Watson

Completely off topic, but I see on the BBC that Emma Watson has donated £1m to something called the UK Justice and Equality Fund, which is a campaigning group on sexual harassment. As this does not appear to be a charity, and is not a registered political party, I assume she will be receiving a big inheritance tax bill from HMRC in due course, just as those donors to the Brexit campaign did?

A comment from Jim on this very blog.

Why not just make all housing cheaper by building more homes of any kind?

Ministers are planning to build just a sixth of the affordable rented homes needed to meet demand, according to a damning assessment of England’s crisis-hit housing market.

Nearly 600 extra low-cost rented homes need to be built every week if demand is to be met, as more low-income families are locked out of owning their own home. However, the government is only planning to deliver an extra 100 a week under current proposals. It means that demand is outstripping new supply by 500 homes a week, according to new analysis by the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) thinktank. It said that this exposed government building plans as “woefully short” of what is required.

Building a new mansion increases the supply of housing buy that one unit that then brings down, infinitessimally to be sure, the price of all other houses as supply increases relative to demand. Do this a few hundred thousand times and we’re getting there.

It’s also true that the mansion gets occupied, meaning one smaller and more affordable house becomes free for occupation. After all, that is how it works. Cheaper housing tends to be the older stuff, no?

Are we supposed to snigger or shout in rage?

The widower of murdered MP Jo Cox has quit two charities set up in her memory after sexual assault allegations from his past resurfaced.

Brendan Cox denied sexually harassing two women while he was married to the late politician, but accepted “inappropriate” behaviour, saying: “I made mistakes and behaved in a way that caused some women hurt and offence.”

He has left posts at More in Common and the Jo Cox Foundation after the Mail on Sunday published accusations made by a former colleague while they both worked at charity Save the Children in 2015.

Owen on housing

Neoliberalism is a con, a fraud, and Britain’s housing crisis vividly illustrates why. The populist promise of neoliberalism has always been about extending choice for the individual. In a properly functioning society – which sadly we do not have – young Britons would be able to choose between a comfortable council house on a secure tenancy, a privately rented home with an affordable rent and security, and home ownership. All of these options have been trashed.

Hmm, as a fully paid up neoliberal I know what I propose to deal with that.

The Tories built this system of endemic insecurity,

Well, no, they didn’t.

The post-war Labour government committed to building council housing to a higher standard than private housing: that pledge must be revived. Local authority-backed mortgages should be promoted on a mass scale; and both stamp duty and an unjust council tax system should both be abolished in favour of a progressive land value tax.

In the private sector, Labour is right to commit to an inflation cap on rent rises and three-year tenancies: but local authorities should be granted the power to impose rent controls, too. Homes which are left empty should face compulsory purchase orders, and then be transformed into council housing. Companies and trusts that aren’t based in Britain should be banned from buying up homes, too.

That’s not what I would do, no.

What I would do is blow up the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and successors. You know, the Labour law which causes the problem in the first place?

When a defence is not a defence

It came as Tim Cook , the Apple Chief Executive, said he did not understand the “ferocious” criticism the company had received and appeared to attempt to defend his organisation by insisting they did not murder babies.

Tim Cook, the chief executive, claimed critics motivated by an anti-aid agenda were “gunning” for Apple leaving the company “savaged”.

In an interview with The Guardian, he said: “The intensity and ferocity of the attack makes you wonder, what did we do? We murdered babies in their cots? All we did was make damn great phones and obey the tax laws.”

Well, there’s abuse and abuse, you understand?

A leading children’s rights campaigner, who helped governments around the world tackle the issue of abuse, has been jailed for raping a 12-year-old boy.

Former UNICEF consultant Peter Newell admitted three counts of indecent assault and two counts of buggery and was sentenced to six years, eight months in prison.

His concentration upon no one smacking the bottoms of little boys may have had some prurience attached to it, no?

So new rules weren’t and aren’t needed then, eh?

More than 100 BBC presenters are facing tax bills that could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds after a former star lost her case against HMRC.

Christa Ackroyd earned more than the Prime Minister as co-host of the regional Look North programme on BBC One.

She was paid as a freelancer through a personal services company at the BBC’s request, but HMRC ruled that she should have paid the same level of tax as a BBC employee. Ms Ackroyd must now pay back £419,151.

If the current rules already catch such cases, what need for change?

And let us not forget something very important. Who is really going to face a tax bill? Well, the BBC as well, no?

For what service companies do is lower income tax a bit (the combination of corporation tax and dividend tax isn’t so different), employee national insurance disappears. But then so does employer national insurance, something with no cap at what, 13.8% of income? An amount the BBC is going to have to find, no?

This is the thing that really drove those personal service contracts and companies in the first place. BBC tax dodging.

Re a comment below:

She added that the £419,151 figure did not take into account corporation tax she had already paid through her personal service company. She is considering an appeal.

As several people have pointed out

Third, the charities need to reconnect with the public. It is easy enough to make the case for humanitarian aid when there are famines, floods and hurricanes, and that is reflected in the generosity with which people respond to disaster appeals.

But most of the Ggovernment’s aid budget is spent on longer term development work – and here voters are more sceptical about whether the money they are providing through their taxes is being spent well. Together, the development charities and the government need to be more vocal about where aid is making a difference, as well as more honest about where it has failed.

Trade, not aid.

One could even craft a policy here. IDA costs some £11 billion a year. That would make a nice little training fund for those temporarily displaced by unilateral free trade. So, why not do exactly that? The trade would lift more out of poverty in the first place, we get to say we’re spending it at home, on us. And we kill off Oxfam along the way. What’s not to like?

Note that this isn’t even supposed to be an economic policy (that would be just have the unilateral free trade anyway), it’s a political one.

Akin to the £350 million battlebus for the NHS of course.

Well, yes and no

Oxfam refused to ban staff from using prostitutes saying it would “infringe their civil liberties”, a training manual has revealed.

The guidance, still available on the charity’s website, says that they “strongly discourage” their workers from paying for sex but a total ban would be “impractical”.

Freedom of contract does mean they can insist on the idea. As employees can refuse to sign such a contract.

There can also be a more general term, not to do anything illegal. Or to create disrepute for the organisation.